Thousands of general aviation pilots and enthusiasts will be heading to Hartford, Conn., Sept. 22 through 24 for AOPA Aviation Summit. The event is personal aviation’s premier trade show and convention, with dozens of aircraft on display at Airportfest, more than 400 exhibitor booths in the convention center exhibit hall, and more than 60 hours of seminars offered over the course of three days.
“Whether you’re an aircraft owner, a pilot who rents, or an aviation enthusiast who doesn’t yet hold a pilot certificate, AOPA Aviation Summit has something to offer, from the exhibits in the hall and at the airport, to the seminars and social events,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Whatever your experience level, there's no better place to get answers to your questions, explore all that aviation has to offer, and discover new ways to get the most out of your flying.”
Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. is the host sponsor for AOPA Aviation Summit. Their support and active participation is vital to AOPA’s ability to share the experience with pilots and members—those at the show and others around the world watching AOPA Live coverage.
At the heart of AOPA Aviation Summit is the opportunity for attendees to learn more about the issues facing GA and have their voices heard.
Each day will begin at 8 a.m. with a keynote session in the ballroom of the convention center.
Thursday’s keynote begins with a conversation between Fuller and Louis Chênevert, chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corporation (UTC), host sponsor of AOPA Aviation Summit. UTC is the parent of legendary aerospace companies Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, and Hamilton Sundstrand. Chênevert himself is a pilot and AOPA member. The two leaders will discuss some of the technologies that will carry GA into the future. Afterward, Fuller and members of AOPA’s leadership team will discuss key issues affecting pilots.
On Friday, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt will address many of the same issues from the regulator’s standpoint. The FAA, for instance, has been a key partner with the GA industry in the search for an unleaded alternative to the current 100 low-lead aviation gasoline.
On Saturday, Rod Hightower, president and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), joins Fuller for a combination keynote session and pancake breakfast in the convention center. The two will discuss how the associations are working together to grow the pilot population and help more people achieve the dream of flight. As they discussed at the “Stronger Together” seminar during EAA’s AirVenture in July, the two associations’ programs for aspiring pilots complement each other well. Fuller and Hightower also will make a special announcement during the keynote that members won’t want to miss.
Whether an attendee is a seasoned pilot and owner looking to move up to a bigger or faster aircraft, or an aviation enthusiast who is just thinking about learning to fly, Airportfest at Hartford Brainard Airport is the place to be. And best of all—it’s free and open to the public!
With dozens of aircraft on display, ranging from light sport and four- or six-seat aircraft to turboprop and business jet aircraft, visitors can see the wide spectrum that is GA. Also on display will be a World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter. And in the middle of it all will be the grand prize in the 2011 Crossover Classic Sweepstakes—a completely refurbished 1974 Cessna 182. The winner of the 2011 Sweepstakes will be announced during AOPA Aviation Summit.
For people interested in taking the next step toward beginning flight training, the AOPA Learn to Fly Center at Airportfest will offer an opportunity to speak directly with flight instructors and even “fly” a motion simulator. In addition, one of the local flight schools will offer introductory flights for the special commemorative price of $72, marking AOPA’s seventy-second anniversary.
Back at the Connecticut Convention Center, attendees can wander through more than 400 exhibitor booths. Vendors will be selling everything from aircraft and engines and avionics to flight bags and charts and aviation-themed memorabilia and jewelry.
Representatives from the full range of products and services AOPA offers members will be on hand in the AOPA Member Pavilion (aisle 600). There, attendees can get free legal, medical, or aircraft ownership advice from representatives of the AOPA Legal Services Plan, Medical Services Program, or Aircraft Partnership Program. At the head of the aisle is the AOPA Store, where attendees can pick up AOPA and Aviation Summit souvenirs and merchandise.
Attendees can also make their opinion known at the AOPA Member Pavilion with an all-new interactive advocacy effort that allows them to take their picture with a General Aviation Serves America background, and for only 99 cents (the company will print and mail it), send that card to the elected official in their district to let them know just how important GA is to them.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association will once again staff Controllers’ Corner, where pilots can meet one-on-one with controllers to get their questions answered and learn more about life on the other side of the radio.
Women in Aviation International also will be back to host the Women’s Wing, where women who are either already pilots or hope to become one can get answers, get connected, and get inspired! There, they can meet and mingle with other women in the industry and enter to win daily prize drawings.
As always, the AOPA Aviation Summit is as much about education as it is about a trade show and convention. There will be more than 60 hours of seminars offered during the summit.
The popular series of seminars on medical issues returns, as does the Light Business Aircraft Conference, with six seminars offered in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association, offering pilots and owners tips on getting the most out of their aircraft when used for business.
There are seminars on places to go and things to do with your certificate. Other seminars focus on air safety and pilot skills. The Air Safety Institute will offer its two-hour “Pinch Hitter” course for nonpilots who fly frequently in the right seat. And of course, some of the seminars are just plain fun, such as flight instructor and aviation funnyman Rod Machado’s “Aviation Humor” seminar.
In addition to all the seminars, new this year is the AOPA Learning Pavilion on the main exhibit floor. Each day, experts from AOPA; Women in Aviation, International; National Air Traffic Controllers Association; and others, will offer informative presentations ranging from history to air safety to aerial photography. On Saturday, Fuller will host a Congressional Summit in the Learning Pavilion. He’ll be joined by U.S. Reps. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), all of whom are part of the GA Caucus in their respective houses of Congress.
Thursday evening, the AOPA Foundation hosts the A Night for Flight benefit gala and auction.
The evening starts with a reception, and then moves to a three-course dinner followed by an exciting acrobatic show created just for the evening by AiRealistic. Led by a creative team that has performed with Cirque de Soleil, Dragone, De La Guarda, and the Metropolitan Opera, AiRealistic combines experts in rock climbing, gymnastics, theater, and dance into an aerial theatre company.
Half of the price of each ticket and all of the proceeds from the online auction will benefit the AOPA Foundation as it pursues its four-part mission to promote GA safety, protect America’s airports, expand the pilot population, and enhance the public image of GA.
For those looking for a more family-friendly way to spend Thursday evening, there’s Movie Night at the Connecticut Science Center, right next to the convention center. AOPA will host an aviation-themed double-feature: Memphis Belle and Legends of Flight.
A luncheon at the Connecticut Convention Center on Friday will honor 100 years of U.S. Naval aviation.
That evening, attendees can choose to attend one of several “dine arounds,” small dinners with aviation celebrities, at some of Hartford’s best restaurants, or to attend the “Rock ‘n Rally at Airportfest,” where they can sample fare from a number of area restaurants and enjoy live music by area band Out of Touch. Also on tap, a “balloon glow,” with tethered hot air balloons on display, lit from within by their burners.
To wrap things up, AOPA will host a closing party at the New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport in nearby Windsor Locks, Conn.
“We’ve got a great mix of old favorites and exciting new offerings at AOPA Aviation Summit this year,” concluded Fuller. “As always we’re looking forward to seeing our members face to face and celebrating our freedom to fly.”